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The Fable of Fear and 3 Simple Steps to Conquer It

“Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.” ~Unknown

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who carried Fear as her constant companion.

It wasn’t fear of wild animals, impending danger, or the shadows that lurk in the night. In fact, her friend Fear had become disassociated with any real thing. It had become an entity all its own that could morph and wind its way into any circumstance the woman happened to be in.

The woman wasn’t born this way.

When she was small, Fear had served her well and taught her how to stay out of harm’s way. But as the girl grew and experienced the world around her (which could sometimes be harsh and painful), Fear found a foothold for power.

Fear taught the girl that Harsh and Painful were always just around the corner, even when they weren’t, and showed her how to avoid life so that she wouldn’t meet them. When she did meet Harsh and Painful, Fear said, “I told you so. You better stick with me.”

Fear’s Sneaky Plot

Sometimes her erstwhile friend Fear thought it was fun to poke around in the young woman’s mind, searching for weak spots so that it could manufacture something that felt as real as an oncoming train or a lurking monster.

Fear was sneaky like that. It liked to torment and create havoc in the woman’s heart and mind. It whispered stories in her ear that weren’t true or only had a grain of truth. Fear liked to embellish. Fear liked to stir the pot.

The woman knew that she’d allowed Fear to become her master. But she kept feeding it by worrying, over-thinking, pontificating, ruminating, and believing without question. As Fear munched away growing fatter and stronger, the young woman began to shrink.

She shrunk so small that she could fit into the safe box that Fear hadn’t infiltrated—little did she know Fear had built just for her.

She felt comfortable in the box; and Fear liked her there because it kept him in control.

The Power of Truth

Fortunately, the box had windows. And after a while, the woman started looking outside. She saw other people in boxes just like hers. Just like her, they were safe and quietly contained with Fear guarding the door.

But she saw something else, something that stirred her heart and soul.

She saw people who weren’t in boxes.

These people had room to run, move freely, and do anything they wished. They were doing exciting, creative, adventurous things (many of the same things that Fear had warned her about).

But they were happy. They weren’t hiding. In fact, she could see Fear chasing them, but these people laughed at Fear. And when Fear did catch them, they would firmly cast Fear aside and put Fear in a box!

How amazing!!

How liberating!

The woman cracked the door of the box, and yelled over Fear’s head to the people outside, “How did you conquer Fear like that? How did you put Fear in a box?”

“Truth,” they shouted back. “We battled Fear with Truth and Inquiry, and Fear lost all of its powers!”

“How do I find Truth and Inquiry?” asked the woman.

“It’s that light inside of you,” they said. “And all you have to do is shine it in Fear’s face.”

Tentatively, the woman picked one of Fear’s favorite weak spots, and she look inside herself for Truth and Inquiry. She found a faint, flickering light and held it up to Fear.

Immediately, Fear grew weaker. And as Fear grew weaker, the woman started to grow. Truth and Inquiry got brighter too.

With practice, the woman was able to shine the light on all of the weak spots that Fear had created. Eventually, the woman grew too big, too strong, too powerful for the box.

As soon as she burst out of the box, she saw Fear cowering outside.

Her heart went out to Fear, because she remembered how it felt to cower. She gently placed Fear in the box, because she knew she might need Fear on occasion. But now she saw Fear for what it was—her servant, not her master. And Truth had set her free.

What About You?

I was once that woman. And maybe you were or are too. Or that man.

How much power does Fear have over you?

How many of Fear’s stories do you believe?

Are you living in the box or have you begun your escape?

Well here is the good news:

You can put Fear in a box. And let me tell you, once you do this, your life will turn around 180 degrees.

You will do things you never thought possible.

You will be bold and enthusiastic about life.

You will find passion in life and seize every opportunity.

If you want to start disempowering Fear right now, here are three things you can do today:

1. Isolate one fear at a time.

Start with one that really interferes with your growth. For me it was fear of abandonment. That was my biggie. What’s yours? You might fail? You might not be loved? You might disappoint someone?

2. Ask yourself why you have this fear.

This is a question you should ask until you run out of answers. Write down every reason you can think of, starting with the main one that probably occurred when you were small. Write these reasons down so you don’t forget them.

3. Finally, start undermining these reasons with evidence to the contrary.

You might feel a certain way about yourself, but that doesn’t make it true. And even if there were truth in the original belief and feelings, you have lived a lot of life since then.

There are hundreds of reasons why you are smart, lovable, attractive, etc. Write those down too.

Personal growth writer and teacher Byron Katie has this to say about the thoughts that Fear creates:

“So, how do you get back to heaven? To begin with, just notice the thoughts that take you away from it. You don’t have to believe everything your thoughts tell you. Just become familiar with the particular thoughts you use to deprive yourself of happiness. It may seem strange at first to get to know yourself in this way, but becoming familiar with your stressful thoughts 
will show you the way home to everything you need.”

Remember, you don’t have to believe the stories Fear tells you. Write them down, and then shine the light of Truth and Inquiry on them. Find evidence to the contrary, and attach your faith on this evidence rather than Fear’s stories.

With practice, you will escape the box and firmly place Fear within it.

Photo by Jo Levine

Avatar of Barrie Davenport

About Barrie Davenport

Barrie Davenport is a certified personal coach, author, and founder of Live Bold and Bloom. Please take her Free Self-Confidence Test to find out your personal confidence score.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://upcountry.blogspot.com/ Jenna

    I think my body used to be addicted to fear. I say that because I used to have a panic attack about ANYTHING. Even the phrase “panic attack” would give me a panic attack. Through a lot of soul-searching and getting through the periods of fear with love for myself, I was able to reduce my fear (mostly) to those things that are more basic fears: pain, loss, failure. Except for my fear of loud noises (yeah), I’ve been able to weaken Fear and strengthen myself enough to enjoy my life MUCH MORE. 

    Thanks for your post! The personification of Fear was really fun to read and it always makes a lesson easier to apply.

  • http://crazyintrovert.blogspot.com/ ZeCrazyIntrovert

    Just a thought… but wouldn’t a little bit of fear motivate you as well? Some say fear is necessary for survival.

    So, maybe put Fear in a box and leave her pinky outside?

  • Lv2terp

    I LOVE the fable that you wrote, the visual it provides really sheds a lot of light on fear and the control it can have over us!  Thank you for your wisdom, story and tips! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=642278909 Dana Bethea

    I also like to say my fear out loud. Doing so takes away its power and sometimes makes it sound ridiculous. Thanks for this post.

  • Susan Viera

    Very unique perspective and way of explaining it.  I can use this on my fears. Thank you ;~)  

  • Cindy@YogainMyPocket.com

    That’s a great post.  We’ve just started working with fear for the Spring Yoga sessions as well.  There’s a lot to be learned from our fears. 

  • Guest

    Thank you, this was beautiful. I have found that taking note of my stressful thoughts removes them of their power. I try to remember to take that pause between the trigger of the negative thoughts and simply reacting in my habitual way. I sit with the negative thoughts/feelings, and then make a conscious decision on how to act (which is often to just recognize how I’m feeling and do nothing).

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    I am so glad you like it! Sometimes stories speak to us louder than techniques. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    Yes, you are absolutely right. That’s why I mention that the girl puts fear in the box to use when necessary. A little fear is helpful if we are in control of it. :

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    Absolutely. Awareness is the very first step to change. Just shining awareness on fear will help dissipate it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    Thank you Cindy. That is interesting that you are working with fear in Yoga sessions. I’d love to hear more about that. Yes, fears tell us a lot about ourselves and can be the key to finding a path to a happier life once we address them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    Thank you Susan. I’m go glad you liked it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    That is great Dana. Yes, speaking about it out loud does have that affect. It is funny how our minds can trap us in such crazy loops. Speaking out loud sort of breaks the spell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    Hi Jenna,
    I think anything practiced enough becomes a habit. That goes for fear. If we become accustomed to reacting with fear, we train ourselves to respond that way over and over. You almost have to “re-train” yourself. Exposure to your fears helps too. You might try that with loud noises. :)

  • Jen

    This is great. Thanks so much. I recently listened to a talk by Tara Brach on fear which goes along well with this. (http://www.tarabrach.com/audio/2012-03-28-Attend-and-Befriend-TaraBrach.mp3 for anyone who’s interested…) Facing fear and learning to differentiate helpful fear from unhelpful fear is truly liberating. Thanks again for your wise words.

  • Marlene

    A beautiful fable and post. I really, really needed this. While reading this, the light within me re-ignited and flooded me. It made me excited to live, to do my homework, to clean, to interact, to go out for dinner tonight, to face a huge fear of mine TODAY and embrace everything that comes my way. I often shine light on fear and then snuggle back into my cloak of fear, worry and sadness but it’s posts like these that remind me of the Truth. Thank you so so much. I wish you lots of love and bravery!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    Hi Jen,
    Thank you for sharing the talk by Tara Brach. I look forward to hearing that. Some fear is very useful, but so much of our fear is just an energy drain. I’m so glad you liked the post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbdavenport Barrie Burgess Davenport

    Dear Marlene, it is so wonderful to know that my words help you reignite the light within so that you can continue to shine it on fear. We do tend to forget to shine that light sometimes, and we all need reminders. I wish you love and bravery too. Or just a bright light!

  • Djaybe

    Sooo Good! thank you!

  • Erin

    Thank you very much for your post. This resonates deeply with me and I have recently stuck fear in its box over the past few months, taking back control over my own life. I appreciate your story and your struggle, and I think it’s extremely pertinent to the lives of many so thank you. 

  • Meggibbons

    Thankyou for turning the light on! I have let fear run my life for almost 46 years but didn’t realize fear kept me in that box looking at life. I’m going to step outside. I’m grateful for this story. This is life changing:)

  • Barrie Davenport

     Hi Meg,
    I am so glad it touched you. I truly hope you do step out of the box, at least long enough to realize what wonderful things are all around you. Nothing you fear is as bad as you fear it will be, I promise. :)

  • Barrie Davenport

     You are so welcome Erin. Congratulations on taking control over fear. We all deal with it at some point. I’m glad you have found a way to win back your life.

  • Barrie Davenport

     You are so welcome!

  • Jacki

    Why is fear male? This could have easily been gender neutral.

    Love it even though its loaded

  • Leslie

    Love it, but why is fear male?

  • http://twitter.com/aparnasurendran aparna surendran

    thank you so much Barrie.. the way you said is, its so simple n soothing,,.. great work… may God bless you for lighting up hearts of so many people around like this with your writings..:)

  • Ann

    That’s a nice tip recognizing the feeling and just do nothing ;-)